• Welcome to Tamil Brahmins forums.

    You are currently viewing our boards as a guest which gives you limited access to view most discussions and access our other features. By joining our Free Brahmin Community you will have access to post topics, communicate privately with other members (PM), respond to polls, upload content and access many other special features. Registration is fast, simple and absolutely free so please, join our community today!

    If you have any problems with the registration process or your account login, please contact contact us.

The lonely struggle of India's anti-nuclear protesters

Not open for further replies.


Well-known member
[h=1]The lonely struggle of India's anti-nuclear protesters[/h]
Behind the Lourdes Matha church in Idinthakarai, a fishing village at the southern tip of India, five women have abandoned their chores to protest at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. Today is day 1,754 of their relay hunger strike, which began when the plant was fuelled in 2011.
Celine, 73, is among the five protestors, who take it in turns to go without food. “Not a single government, not a single political party is willing to take up our cause,” she says. “Only Mother Mary can save us now.”
The villagers of Idinthakarai, in Tamil Nadu state, have been protesting against the plant since the late 1980s, when it was proposed. But theirs is a lonely struggle. Few people in India have even heard of their village, let alone support their protest.

In the next few months, a second unit of the plant will be fuelled. “What’s the point of starting a second unit when there are so many problems with the first?” Celine says, referring to intermittent technical faults at the plant.
As India develops, its energy needs are growing rapidly. More than 300 million Indians are still without electricity, a statistic Narendra Modi, the prime minister, has vowed to cut through an ambitious electrification programme. The promise of cheap labour and utilities has drawn major manufacturers to the country in the past two decades.

India consumes a whopping 872m tonnes of oil equivalent for power; only China and the US use more. Its annual energy import bill is $120bn (£83bn), which will grow to $1tn by 2040, according to a World Energy Output report. Pressure to adopt cleaner forms of energy has been mounting from foreign governments. The Indian government presents nuclear energy as part of the solution to its looming energy crisis. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India was set up, according to its mission statement, to “produce nuclear power as a safe, environmentally benign and economically viable source of electrical energy to meet the increasing electricity needs of the country”.

SP Udayakumar is an anti-nuclear activist from the nearby town of Nagercoil. He ran in the recent state elections as a single-issue candidate. Photograph: Vidhi Doshi “People ask us, why are you against science? Why don’t you want India to develop?” says Sundari, an anti-nuclear activist from Idinthakarai village. “We want to tell them – we’re not against electricity … We’re against nuclear power.”

Despite India’s billions of dollars of investment in nuclear power, the latest figures from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), obtained by the Guardian, suggest nuclear plants produced 37,456m units of electricity, about 2% of the country’s annual consumption.
SP Udayakumar, an anti-nuclear activist from the nearby town of Nagercoil, ran in May’s state elections as a single-issue candidate. “If India was getting half or a third of its energy from nuclear plants, then maybe there would be an argument for it,” he says. “But after all this, after years of crushing the peoples’ protest at Idinthakarai, is it really worth it?”
Udayakumar sees the nuclear programme as a costly prestige exercise that endangers the lives of millions. Plus, he points out, villagers are still living in the dark, since most of India’s energy is used by the industrial sector. “Who really benefits from the nuclear plants in the end, except the foreign companies that are building these plants in India?” he says.
In 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet leader at the time, made his first state visit to India. Two years later, he and Rajiv Gandhi, the incumbent prime minister, signed an agreement for two nuclear plants at Kudankulam.
Protests began a month later. The 1986 Chernobyl accident and the 1982 Bhopal gas disaster were of concern to the local fishing communities. How could the governments that had shown such catastrophic negligence be trusted to build a nuclear plant in their neighbourhood?

The end of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 derailed the Kudankulam plans until 1997, when Indian’s HD Deve Gowda and Russia’s Boris Yeltsin renewed the agreement. Construction of the plant began in 2002.
Many countries have taken a slice of India’s budding nuclear energy market: the UK, Canada, the US, Australia and Japan have all offered expertise and resources, and nuclear plants, backed by foreign governments, are dotted around India’s coasts and in central states.

Yet foreign governments have shirked responsibility. When President Barack Obama visited India last year, he signed a deal limiting the US’s legal liability in the event of an accident at a nuclear plant.

The resolve of the five protestors remains unshaken, but many of the villagers who supported them initially have realised the futility of resisting. The village chief’s husband, Sagayaraj, speaks on behalf of his wife. “The protests have destroyed our village,” he says. “I supported the protests at first, but now I’ve realised that we just need to take what we can get. This is not just about Idinthakarai or Kudankulam – it is an international issue. If they close the plant here, there will be protests to close nuclear plants all around the country. Now people realise the scale of what we’re trying to do. It’s like we’re protesting against Russia – against all the foreign governments. How can our small village take on international powers?”
When the plant was planned, the government promised windmills, running water, schools, colleges, hospitals, a harbour and more. So far, none of these have been delivered, partly because the villagers refuse to cooperate.

The protests in Idinthakarai were reinvigorated after the Fukushima disaster triggered by the tsunami in Japan. The accident alarmed people in tsunami-prone coastal villages, and hundreds came to Lourdes Matha church, which became the focal point of resistance.

Police were dispatched to Idinthakarai to keep the protests in check. They used tear gas and fired into the crowd, killing five people.

Many of the residents, including the village chief, have been arrested on sedition charges. Passports have been seized and bank accounts of protest leaders scrutinised. “The government is treating us like terrorists,” says Sundari.

The Guardian tried many times to contact the local police and visited the Kudankulam police station, but no one was available to comment.

A spokesperson from the DAE, speaking about the protests at Idinthakarai, said: “All the matters are being addressed amicably.” The spokesperson said the National Disaster Management Authority has “put in place all the measures in the event of nuclear and radiological emergencies”.
None of the villagers interviewed, including the chief, had ever seen the government’s disaster plans or heard of any evacuation exercises in the village.

The government has given out mixed messages on nuclear power. Minister of power Piyush Goyal spoke against it at the India economic summit in 2014, saying Europe and America had stopped building their own nuclear capacity. “This government would like to be cautious so that we are not saddled with something only under the garb of clean energy or alternate energy,” he said.

Yet Modi has signed deals and held talks with countries including the UK and Japan in the past two years. The deals are in line with Modi’s predecessors’ ambitions for nuclear expansion. India has signed nuclear energy deals with at least 10 countries, including Namibia and Kazakhstan.

A spokesperson from the DAE said: “Nuclear power is a clean and green source of energy [that] does not contribute to increases in carbon emissions in the environment.Right at the design stage itself, necessary safety features are incorporated for safe operation of the plant. Post-Fukushima these safety features have been augmented and strengthened to address any beyond design basis incidents.”

Not open for further replies.
Thank you for visiting TamilBrahmins.com

You seem to have an Ad Blocker on.

We depend on advertising to keep our content free for you. Please consider whitelisting us in your ad blocker so that we can continue to provide the content you have come here to enjoy.

Alternatively, consider upgrading your account to enjoy an ad-free experience along with numerous other benefits. To upgrade your account, please visit the account upgrades page

You can also donate financially if you can. Please Click Here on how you can do that.

I've Disabled AdBlock    No Thanks